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Time to Wake Up: A policy paper by the Centre for Social Justice October 2012

Tackling gangs one year after the riots

In 2009 the Centre for Social Justice published Dying to Belong, a landmark review of street gangs in the UK. We argued that gang culture is symptomatic of even deeper social problems: chaotic families; absent fathers; young people cut adrift and lacking purpose; and a revolving door criminal justice system which does nothing to change lives.

In Dying to Belong we argued that without concerted action to mend our broken society more violent and appalling disorder will rear its ugly head. There is nothing more dangerous than a group of people who feel they have nothing to gain and nothing to lose. This truth was loudly confirmed when last summer’s riots erupted.

Gangs played a significant role in the riots and it is dangerous to pretend otherwise – in London at least one in five of those convicted was known to be part of a gang. One year on, we have talked to members of our UK-wide Alliance of small, frontline organisations and charities asking them how they feel gang culture has changed in the light of the government response. Worryingly, many have drawn us a picture of little or no progress, despite the publication of a positive political strategy. Some have even suggested that the problem is becoming worse with increased violence amongst younger gang members and growing numbers of girls joining gangs. There is also deep concern that the Government is not serious about making a long-term commitment to tackling gang culture and its roots. Many in Whitehall regard the riots as a random one-off and mistake the quashing of the disorder as control of the streets. They could not be more wrong.The alarming fact is that many streets across the country are besieged by anarchy and violence. There is no control in such neighbourhoods.